“I want you to dance with your elbows”, demands Juliette Jackson of a somewhat static crowd not long into The Big Moon’s support slot for Mystery Jets in Edinburgh on 8 October. A few limbs flail, a few faces look around with uncertainty. “That’s some excellent elbow action right there, the best we’ve seen.”
The Big Moon do not take themselves too seriously. Hours previously, crammed into a nook in the bowels of The Liquid Room with Jackson and guitarist Soph Nathan, a yellowed 90s house phone rings. “We texted this thing earlier to see if it would work!” Jackson exclaims with glee. She hands over the receiver, and an automated voice deadpans: “What’s. Happening. Bitches.” The pair are delighted. When questioned on the origins of the band name: “Basically just the moon in the sky. Also a really big bum.” This complete lack of stiffness is mirrored in their playful indie-pop sound, which combines spiralling guitars and rumbling percussion with breathy, quavering vocals and butter-wouldn’t-melt lyrics, more often than not delivered with a smirk or lick of sarcasm.
The cohesiveness of the band is immediately evident, both on record and on stage, an impressive achievement considering the members were complete strangers prior to meeting just two years ago. “It was pretty immediate”, Jackson says: “I spent a while running around to everyone I knew like ‘Can you learn an instrument? Will your brother learn an instrument? Are you having a baby anytime soon, that you could bring up and teach the cello?’, so I think the first thing I said when I met Soph was ‘Oh my god I love you!’”. “I was just going to go for a handshake”, chuckles Nathan.
The band’s comfort with their sound and with each other is no doubt largely attributable to many months spent on the road with the likes of The Maccabees, Mac Demarco, Ezra Furman and Yak. “A lot can change in a song once you’ve been playing it live for a while. You feel from the crowd what’s working and what isn’t”. Despite the abundance of fellow bright indie bands on the live circuit at the moment, Jackson maintains that it’s not as competitive as it might seem: “It’s like a big club – it never feels like a competition. I think most of us just realise how lucky we are to be doing something we love.”
Thus it is through slog on the live circuit and word-of-mouth, rather than heavy media exposure, that The Big Moon has developed a reputation for a cracking live performance. It is easy to see why: in the space of a song or two, they have the once-reticent crowd at Liquid Room eating out of the palm of their hands, jumping about and yelling back the words to choruses they don’t even know. Meanwhile on-stage the four whip their hair, hopping boisterously into any free space they can find and grinning at one another through dappled lighting that resembles TV static on hallucinogens. The members play off each other – during ‘Silent Movie Susie’, bassist Celia Archer rallies with Fern Ford’s crashing drum lines to create a vigorous momentum, while Nathan’s riffs mirror the vocal harmonies in songs such as ‘Cupid’.
The band has a propensity for tempo changes, which keeps the crowd on its toes, dropping into a loose, lazy rhythm or accelerating into scuzzy overdrive with little to no warning. This is particularly the case with their frankly excellent cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’, where Jackson’s lush voice and louche intertwining of guitars lulls the audience into a swaying stupor, before a crashing of Ford’s kit and slamming guitar shakes us back to where they want us.
The group certainly has live technique worked out: compared to the start of the set, when Jackson announces final song, debut single ‘Sucker’, the crowd heaves an audible groan of dissent, something that support acts are rarely, if ever, blessed with. Their honest pitch? “Come see us live and decide if you like us. We play guitars loudly and…we whip our hair around…and stamp our feet… and you just might like it!”
Photo: Brooklyn Vegan